Technically Advanced Aircraft (TAA) Transition Training

by Brandon Ray · June 2, 2011

Technically Advanced Aircraft (TAA) Transition Training

By Brandon J. Ray, CFI, CFII, MEI, Master Flight Instructor


In recent years, general aviation has benefited from many innovations and technological advancements. We have seen glass cockpits become standard equipment on new aircraft. Satellite datalink weather now helps guide our inflight decision-making and diversion planning. Digital autopilots on Skyhawks now rival those found on the commercial airlines. NDBs and VORs have faded out of the spotlight as GPS and WAAS technology take over as the navigation source of choice. Moving maps and iPads have replaced the traditional paper charts, plotters and E6Bs. To some pilots, “partial panel” means they lost their XM radio and have to revert to their backup iPod. (Tough flight, huh?)

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Lots of Change… Good or Bad?

With all the new technology available in the cockpit, we have the opportunity to improve safety and increase our flying capabilities. Unfortunately, the technology can also create distractions and cause pilots to fumble around with knobs wondering, “How do I do that again?” Sure, you can read the manuals and try to figure it out as you go. You’ll quickly find that the manuals were mostly written by tech writers (with the valuable input of the lawyers, of course) and aren’t always the most efficient way to learn a new system. After trying to learn the avionics and advanced systems while flying, you start to realize that perhaps spending $100-$200 per hour on Avgas while fumbling with knobs probably isn’t the most effective use of your time or money… Not to mention the potentially compromised safety.

Effective Transition Training

Armed with over 500 hours of G1000 experience, I figured I knew most of what I needed to know about the G1000 based on experience (trial and error). When I went to work for Cessna, I went through my first official “G1000 transition training” course. I quickly realized that in 500 hours of G1000 experience, I had only begun to scratch the surface of the full capability of the system. Through very specific scenario-based transition training, I was able to learn more about the G1000 in two and a half days than I had in two and a half years of trial and error. I began teaching the Cessna FITS Factory Transition Training to customers on a daily basis and got to see repeated examples of those “aha” moments where even the most experienced pilots learned to use their aircraft and avionics more effectively. Since then, I have had the opportunity to train hundreds of clients in Technically Advanced Aircraft (TAA), and I now fully appreciate the value of a focused, well-organized transition course.

While many instructors may claim to have glass cockpit experience, it is important to find a CFI who is not just familiar with your particular aircraft and avionics, but also proficient in the use and instruction of these systems. You want to find an instructor that can teach you the nuances and “gotchas” of your airplane. If you are looking at purchasing a new or used TAA aircraft, you are probably already researching information regarding the most appropriate aircraft, financing, and insurance arrangements. As this process can quickly become overwhelming, don’t neglect to search for a well-qualified instructor. Regardless of your experience level, don’t settle for just flying a “few times around the patch” with your salesman. This following information is presented with the intention of providing guidance when looking for the best transition training for your aircraft.

Things to Look For

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to instruct many pilots transitioning to Technically Advanced Aircraft, and there are a few things to look for when choosing your training. First, check to make sure the training will meet all of your requirements…


FAA Requirements (FAR 61.41):

For an aircraft greater than 200 HP you will need a high performance endorsement. Although there is no requirement for a Technically Advanced Aircraft endorsement, you will want to make sure you receive specific training on the avionics and advanced systems for the aircraft. A high-altitude endorsement is only required of your aircraft is pressurized, so it is not necessary to get this for a Cirrus SR22T or Cessna Corvalis TT, even though you may fly at high altitudes. Even so, if you plan to fly in or near the flight levels, I would strongly recommend getting high altitude training from an experienced instructor and also set up an appointment to visit the altitude chamber.


Insurance Requirements:

Will the transition training meet the requirements of your insurance underwriter? Each underwriter has different requirements, but they will probably want to know the credentials of your instructor and the content of the training you will receive. Check with your insurance broker to verify the training and instructor requirements. Also, you will want to make sure your transition instructor is listed on the insurance policy for coverage during the transition training.


Factory Accepted Training:

Ideally, your training will be an official “factory-accepted” training course. Cessna has the “Cessna FITS Accepted Instructor” (CFAI & CFAI+) program, and Cirrus has the “Cirrus Standardized Instructor Program” (CSIP). These programs provide a standardized syllabus for each applicable aircraft, specific to the needs of a VFR or IFR pilot. These courses result in a certificate of completion that can be submitted to your insurance company for proof of training. Check with your transition instructor to make sure your training will qualify as “factory accepted training”.

Beyond the Transition Training

What happens after the transition training? I recommend a follow-up training session within the next 3-6 months to serve as a brief refresher. After that, you will want to evaluate a continued training plan with your instructor according to your specific needs.


Recurrent Training

I typically schedule quarterly training sessions with local clients to keep them sharp on their instrument skills and to spread out the learning throughout the year. This tends to be more effective and consistent rather than just training once every one to two years. Even for out-of-state clients, we typically schedule at least one full day of training per year to go above and beyond the requirements of the FAA.


WINGS Program

The WINGS program is one more way to improve and maintain proficiency. It involves a combination of ground review and flight training, and if completed successfully, will substitute for the requirement of a flight review. Talk to your insurance company to see if they offer any discounts for participating.


Aircraft Type Clubs

I highly recommend joining the clubs or associations that are focused on your particular aircraft type. These clubs and online forums can provide valuable information and a wealth of knowledge from many experienced pilots and aircraft owners. Other options include attending training events hosted by owners’ groups or clubs who specialize in your particular aircraft. Keep in mind that this type of training is usually designed as recurrent training, rather than initial transition training.


Safety-Focused… Do the Math!

Most pilots have an honest desire to be safe, especially in consideration of the friends and family members that entrust their lives to us in flight. It is not uncommon for aircraft owners to spend half a million dollars buying an aircraft with the latest safety features, $5,000 to $10,000 annually on insurance, $3000 per year on a hangar, $10,000 to $20,000 per year on fuel, $1,000 on avionics databases, and a few thousand dollars more on the latest aviation gadgets. This is all fine, but are we neglecting the most important safety feature available – the pilot? It is no secret that pilot error is the cause of most aviation accidents… So it only makes sense that if we value safety, we should focus more on improving our pilot skills and proficiency. Budgeting $200 to do a minimalistic flight review every 2 years is a sign of disproportionate priorities. Consider participating in a recurrent training plan that is appropriate to your needs. Your family will appreciate the increased safety much more than just having a good insurance policy.

Investing in Your Safety

Your transition training is an important investment in your safety. For more information on specific transition training courses from HPA, please checkout the following links:

Cessna Aircraft Transition Training2015.04.10 01.35 Flyhpa 552728d20f136

Lancair Columbia Aircraft Transition Training

Cirrus Aircraft Transition Training



Other HPA training articles are available for download at:

How it Started

One of my best friends in high school, (Doug Gray) was a private pilot. He offered to take me up for a flight in a 1967 Cessna 150, N6228S. We took off from Calhoun, Georgia, and he took me on a scenic tour of the area, I was hooked. I later found out that my English teacher, (Jan Haluska) was also a flight instructor and the school was offering a ground school course the next year, which he taught, along with flight training with the goal of becoming a private pilot. I managed to talk my dad into funding the training, at the time the total cost was right around $500. Cessna 150 rental rates where $12 an hour, and the 172 we used for cross country was $15 an hour including fuel.

Training Begins

It started August of 1977. The fall semester rolls around, and I am enrolled in ground school, and if memory serves me, we met twice a week. First came the paperwork for my student pilot certificate, which at the time was included with the 3rd class medical. I loved ground school, especially learning navigation, plotting courses on the sectional, again this was before iPads and GPS, so we did a lot of dead reckoning and VOR navigation for cross countries. At the end of the course, I made an 83% on the Private Pilot written exam, remember this was before we had the question-and-answer books that on future test I would consume before taking a written.

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The fun really began on August 22, 1977, it was my first flight. To my surprise we used the same Cessna 150, N6228S that my friend Doug Gray had taken me for a ride in. The Cessna 150 had a standard VFR instrument panel, with one NAV/COM, and one VOR CDI. No intercom, so no headset, at the time I didn’t know what I was missing. I didn’t get my first headset until I started my instrument training in 2003. I was a big guy, I was 6’ 4” and weighed 245 lbs. but I do not remember being uncomfortable in the 150 even with the instructor in the right seat.

First flight lasted .8 hours, and we accomplished orentation, shallow turns, stability, and effects of flight controls. Over the next few months we added steep 720’s, slow flight, stalls, turns around a point, S-turns, emergencies, landings, (short field, soft field and normal).


At this point I want to talk about a training experience that still stands out. We were close to solo and were practicing takeoffs and landings. Turning base to final Jan got very upset at the way I was cross controlling the aircraft. Cross control is when you are in, say a left turn, and use opposite rudder to line the nose up with the runway. So, he had me depart the pattern and head east to the practice area, and climbing up to 5500 feet MSL, he had me slow down to just above stalling speed, start a left shallow turn and add right rudder. As the airplane stalled I had the strangest sensation, no roller coaster has ever come close, instead of blue sky in the windscreen I was looking at brown ground, and as far as I could tell we were upside down, through the terror of the moment Jan talked me out of the spin, controls neutral, oposite rudder, pull slowly out of the dive. As we leveled off he asked me what altitude we were at, as I remember it was around 2,800 feet MSL. Then he asked me what would happen if I experenced this on base to final in the traffic pattern. The answer was obvious, I would be a pile of wreckage off the end of the runway with a very short-lived aviation career. Needless to say this cured my cross-control tendencies.

Another training event the sticks out in my mind was the first time we did takeoffs and landings at the High School runway. The runway was 1,500 feet long, not sure of the width, but it seems like we had about 5 feet on each side of the wheels when on the center line of the runway. Landing from the south you also had to go between a cutout in the trees to be able to stop in time on the runway. After getting confortable landing here every runway since seemed huge. I remember landing at Chattanooga (KCHA) on a night cross country and commenting to Jan, that I felt like I could of landed sideways on the runway, it felt that large.

Very soon after this I started wearing old shirts to all my flight lessons, the reason for this occurred on February 8, 1978. The lesson that day was stalls, takeoffs and Landing. As we were taxing back in Jan told me it was time for my first solo. I was very excited, and after some last minute advice from Jan, including watch for floating on landing the plane will be light with him not in the right seat, complete 3 takeoffs and landings to a full stop. It was a blast, and at the end of my shirt was shorter in the back because Jan cut the tail out of it signed and dated my solo [an aviation tradition]. Total flight time accumulated on the day of my solo was 18.1 hours. I was now officially a pilot with solo priveleges.

In my next article I start cross country training, when Jan decided that it would be best accomplished this in the 172. Checking out in N5970R was like moving into a 747, this started a love affair with one of my faviriote planes to date. Since this time I have flown over 900 hours in many different models of the 172 and feel like I am stepping into an old friend every time.

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